If you happen to visit Blue Frog this Sunday, you may be in for a surprise. Instead of histrionics-filled performances and antics-laden performers, the stage will be set with men in crisp kurtas, seated comfortably on cushions. The energetic drummer in the backdrop, hitting his pedal frantically, will be replaced by a bevy of artistes, clapping in unison.
With Pakistani duo Rizwan (32) and Muazzam’s (28) debut performance in the city, the live music venue will open the stage for qawwalis for the very first time. What makes it more special is that the siblings are part of a 750-year-old tradition, which sees familial ties with stalwarts like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (uncle) and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (cousin). For their tribute concert to Nusrat, who tutored them in their early days, they will also be joined by two harmonium players, a tabla player and a backing chorus of five singers.
Talking about their days as apprentices, back in 1996, Rizwan says, “Khan sahib (Nusrat) was a great teacher. He became a child when he spoke to a child and an adult when he spoke to one.”
Besides his legendary uncle’s musical prowess, there’s another trait that makes Rizwan marvel: “I’ve never seen him sleep!” he says, adding, “We used to spend days and nights together practicing, but he never slept. After hours of work, we would doze off, but he nudged us back to reality, and continued playing.”
Following in their tutor’s footsteps, the pair too has now found their place in Bollywood. After lending their voices for Kareena Kapoor’s mujra number ‘Dil mera muft ka’ in Agent Vinod, the two have now signed three new films, the names of which they can’t reveal. Despite all their accolades, does it bother them to be simply known as ‘Nusrat’s nephews’? “In fact, we are proud of it. Qawwali is in our blood and we can never ignore it. The tribute is our way of thanking him and helping the genre grow by reaching out to his fans here.”
Their powerful vocals that carry forward the brand of devotional music their uncle popularised, first came to stage at Peter Gabriel’s World Of Music, Arts and Dance Festival in UK in 1999. Having performed in Delhi recently, the rising young stars of qawwali are looking forward to a similar response here. “It was a delight to see 1,000 youngsters enjoy our music. Also, collaborating on Coke Studio Pakistan earned us fans from the new generation. We hope more young people get interested,” Rizwan says. He is expecting umpteen claps from this city audience. “I’ve heard the Bombay audience is very ‘zinda dil’, and it’s any artiste’s pleasure to perform for such spectators.”
Organised by Inroom Records, the Sufiana recital will feature their renditions of Nusrat’s hits like ‘Allah hoo’, ‘Yeh jo halka halka suroor hai’ and ‘Aafreen Aafreen’. Rizwan adds, “We haven’t stepped out of our hotel yet, but before the concert, we plan to visit Haji Ali to seek blessings.”